Images of conservation analysis
La Sufricaya March 2003
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CONSERVATION OF THE LA SUFRICAYA MURALS
The long-term conservation project at La Sufricaya consists of a three-part program including the documentation, stabilization and reproduction of the murals.  During the 2003 season significant progress was made toward these goals through the combined effort of professional conservators archaeologists and high-resolution photographers.

Professional conservators Leslie Rainer and Angelyn Rivera were invited to assess the condition of the murals within Structure 1 at La Sufricaya.  The conservators visited the site in March of 2003 and evaluated the degree of preservation and stability of the murals.  In their report, they made several recommendations for the long-term preservation, conservation and reproduction of the murals which we have been  following.

Dr. Gene Ware of Brigham Young University continued the documentation of the murals, which was initiated in 2002, through the use of multi-spectral and infra-red photography.  During the 2003 season Dr. Ware completed the documentation of Mural 5 (the scaffold sacrifice scene).  The images produced by the high-resolution documentation have elucidated details of the murals obscured by accretions of time and invisible to the naked eye.  The photographs produced by Dr. Ware will be the basis for reproductions of the murals. 

The conservation of the murals has been directed by Dr. Alberto Semeraro of the Instituto Centrale di Restauro for the past two field seasons.  Dr. Semeraro has repaired damaged portions of the murals and removed calcium concretions from them as well.  During the 2003 season his efforts were concentrated on Mural 5 and a small portion of Mural 1 (Teotihuacano figures).  Thanks to Dr. Semeraro’s efforts, the murals have been stabilized and their future study ensured. 



Conservation report by Angelyn Rivera and Leslie Rainer (pdf) April 2003

Report of Artelab Italy on samples from Murals 5 and 1 (in Italian)

Syntesis of analyses of mural fragments by Artelab, s.r.l., Italy 

Seven fragments of painted stucco from La Sufricaya murals 1-5 were submitted for analysis (C1-C7) to Artelab.  The specimens were analayzed using thin-slices and spectrography (FT-IR) in order to characterize the stuccoes and the painted “film” they support.

In all, the specimens showed a similar composition consisting of a lime base mixed with an organic “fixative”. It was not possible to identify with certainty which organic substances were use as fixative. However, either dairy or animal protein are likely to have been used.

As a temper ingredient in the stucco, both volcanic pumice or ash and plant fibers were used.

In addition, within the mix of the stucco grains of brown material were found. These appear to include particles of charcoal, quartz, feldspar, and fossil shell. These may be grains of bedrock material included in the limestone mix used to create the stucco or remains from the bottom of the firing pit in which the lime was melted.

In specimen C4, a second layer of stucco and paint overlaid the first layer of painted stucco. While the older paint is red in color, the more recent is dark grey. In both layers in this specimen, a layer of lime with a organic protein as fixative was laid down as primer before the paint was applied.

Also in the other specimens superimposed layers of painted stucco were found (at least two). The technique used was that of ‘fresco’ except in one case C6 which appears to have been done in the ‘secco’ technique.

In some cases two layers of painted film were found (C5). In these cases a first coat of black paint is applied as background, followed by a second coat of the desired color.